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What is Picodroid?

Picodroid is a fun, interactive game that teaches kids about the building blocks of life, atoms. Players use their arms to move their Picodroids around the screen, collecting protons, neutrons, and electrons. Players can build elements on their own to learn more about the structure of elements, or compete with others to be the first to correctly build an element. As kids learn about the important components of atoms through Picodroid game play, they are presented with fun facts about many of the important substances around them between each round.

Click to download your free version of Picodroid and learn more about the development of the Picodroid game. Picodroid requires the use of an X-box Kinect, a computer, and the connecting cables.

Picodroid and the extension activities are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Click below to see the middle school and high school standards. 

Next Generation Science Standards

Middle School Standards (Grades 6-8)

High School Standards (Grades 9-12)

Extension Activities

Click to download the Picodroid Extension Activities as a pdf. 

  • Build an Element Game - This activity will require the use of three different types of balls (anything a PE department would have available: soccer balls, basketballs, etc.), each of which would represent a different subatomic particle. Students should be put into groups of about four or five to complete this activity. The teacher will chose an element, depending on the number of balls available, and students will need to build the element chosen. Students should use their periodic tables to determine how many protons, neutrons, and electrons they will need to build this atom. The first group of students to get the correct arrangement wins. Repeat this for several different elements and have a reward for the overall winners.

    If access to PE balls is not available, students could complete this activity on a smaller scale using M&Ms. Different colors of M&Ms represent different subatomic particles, students then need to build the atom of different elements using their M&Ms.
    • Extension Extension: Teachers can also have students build ions and isotopes by changing the number or electrons and neutrons.
    • Teachers could use their electron “balls” to illustrate chemical bonding.

  • PhET Simulations ( - Build an Atom, Isotopes, and Atomic Mass. These simulations allow students to see how adding protons, neutrons, and electrons changes an atom. They help to illustrate the concepts of atomic mass, subatomic particle properties, isotopes, and ions.

  • Atoms are a Mystery - The Picodroid game and PhET simulations use models to represent particles that cannot directly be seen. Scientists can gather data and draw conclusions about things like protons, neutrons, and electrons, without needing to see them. This activity will have students draw conclusions about certain objects without being able to see them. Place several (5-10) common classroom or household objects in boxes that are sealed shut and cannot be seen through. Place the same, or almost the same, objects that were placed in the boxes on a table where students can see them. Put students into groups of two or three and assign each group a box. Students should be told that the objects inside the boxes are similar to the objects that they see on the table, they should have access to these objects during the testing phase of this activity. Before giving the students a box, they need to work together to devise a detailed plan for how they can identify the objects in the box without looking inside of it. Once they have laid out their plan, they will perform the tests outlined in their plan. They can then pick up their mystery box, they can compare the mass of their box to the mass of the objects on the table, they can shake the box to see the sounds the objects make and to try and determine the shape/composition of the object. The teachers may also want to provide some empty boxes so students get a feel for the mass of the box itself. Students should outline the results of each of their tests, and then use their conclusions to try and identify what is in their mystery box. At the end of the testing phase, groups can share their prediction as to the identity of the object in their box with the rest of the class.

  • The Progression of Our Understanding of the Atom - For this activity, students will complete a project that describes the way our understanding of atomic structure has progressed over time. Students should work in groups of 4-5. Assign each group a model of atomic structure from the past: The Dalton Model, The Thompson Model, The Rutherford Model, The Bohr Model, and Modern Atomic Theory. Their project should focus on when each model was created, how each scientist pictured what the structure of the atom looked like, how it varied from the models that came before/after it, and what scientific advances brought about the change in the way scientists understood the structure of the atom. Student groups should create a presentation and perhaps even build an actual model of the atom according to their assigned theory. Groups should share their findings with the rest of the class, in the correct order that atomic theory has progressed.

  • Big Ideas, Small Particles - The Picodroid game illustrates that electrons are smaller than protons and neutrons, but it does not accurately show just how much smaller it is. In reality it would take more than 1830 electrons to equal the mass of one proton/neutron (neutrons are slightly bigger). Find some way to illustrate this to students using a concept they are familiar with. Some examples are listed below.
      • One ear of corn has approximately 700 kernels of corn on it. The mass of an electron would be the equivalent of one kernel of corn, the mass of the proton and neutron would be more than two and half ears of corn each. If a hydrogen atom was built using corn, it would have a single kernel representing its electron, and over five ears of corn representing its nucleus.
      • If one electron was identified as the equivalent of $1, the protons and neutrons would be the equivalent of more than $1830 dollars each. In a hydrogen atom, an electron would be the equivalent of $1, the nucleus would hold about $3660.

Continue this activity by having a discussion of this concept allowing students to come up with their own examples. Teachers can further link this topic to the concept of how the atomic mass of an element depends on the number of protons and neutrons, and considers the mass of the electron negligible.

  • Get to Know the Atom Group DiagramGet to Know the Atom Group Game - Place students in groups of 3. Each member in the group is assigned either a proton, neutron, or electron. Each student is responsible for researching the charge, mass, and location of their assigned subatomic particle. This should only take a few minutes, and they should be able to use nearly any search engine to find correct answers. The students will then meet back up and complete a compare and contrast activity. They should be able to identify the similarities and differences between each of the subatomic particles. A further idea is to have the students complete a Venn diagram similar to the example shown.

  • BEFF (Best Element Friend Forever) Project - Assign each student an element from the periodic table. The students will need to research everything there is to know about their assigned element (become the element’s best friend). Areas of research could include:
    • Who discovered your element?
    • When was your element discovered?
    • What is the atomic structure for your element (number protons, neutrons, electrons)?
    • How did your element get its name?
    • What are some come common uses for your element/what common substances contain your element?
    • What are some fun, interesting, or important facts about your element?

Students should present their element to their classmates. They can create posters detailing the details of their element, and they can even create a 3-D model of what they element might look like at the atomic level.

  • Big People, Small Particles Research Project - Have students complete a project where they research possible career fields that deal with really small particles. They should find out what types of chemists and physicists work with extremely small particles and what their work entails.